Last week, I returned home from a few hours out working to find my daughters puttering around inside. Almost immediately, the oldest said to me, “Mom, we tried to get the “x” marks off your map… we just wanted to mark where our friends live around the world.” My heart sank as I comprehended her words. Just the day before, I had finally found a world map for our wall, the map I’d been looking for since we arrived in South Africa ten months ago and for the wall which has been bare ever since. I had opened it, to show the girls, then decided to have it laminated so it would last for years, and rolled it back into the tube it came in.
I turned and walked back to our study. Sure enough, there on the floor was my map, unrolled from its tube, marked with “x”s in all sorts of random spots (which friend was it that lived on an island in the middle of the Atlantic, I can’t remember), and thoroughly, quite thoroughly, sprayed with my vinegar spray in a well-meaning attempt to clean said “x’s” back off the map. I could feel my blood pressure rising as I knelt down, felt its soppiness, and recalled that it was the only one that the bookstore had.
Years! I thought. For years we have been teaching our children to obey, and yet! Sure, I hadn’t specifically said, “please don’t unroll my map, mark it with “x’s” and then clean it off with vinegar spray,” but still? When will they just get it? I thought grimly.
I wonder how God must have felt when dealing with the Israelites regular grumbling and unfaithfulness over the course of hundreds of years. Or when David’s very deliberate disobedience had huge and devastating consequences. Or when Jonah, after God rescued him from his disobedience through a big fish and changed the Ninevites hearts, struggled so much with hatred of others that he asked God to end his life.
We know from the biblical account, that “the Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” (Ps 103:8).
Fortunately, the Lord reminded me quickly that morning, before I could say something I would later need to apologize for, that indeed, obedience in my own life is a long-term project. Though I have been saved by grace for the majority of my life, I still struggle to obey, most often in my heart and in my attitude. Could I truly expect perfection from my own children when I fail regularly?
In that precious moment, God taught me this: A faithful mother is in this for the long haul. Just as God himself has been since the beginning of the world. There’s a reason no biblical author ever wrote about the ease of faithfulness, the quickness of learning obedience. There’s a reason we have been instructed to run with endurance, because finishing well requires it (Heb12:1). There’s a reason we are admonished to remain steadfast under trial, because trial will come, and steadfastness will be an absolute necessity if our faith is to survive (Jas 1:12).
In that precious moment, God taught me this: a faithful mother is in this for the long haul.
Obedience is not something that I will teach my children and expect that they will have mastered by age five, despite any parenting books that may have indicated otherwise. Rather, my faithfulness as a mother looks like loving them when they fail, and gently instructing them yet again from God’s Word about what obedience looks like. While I know they will not be perfect this side of eternity, I trust that as I seek to be a faithful mom and as God works in their hearts, growth will result, slow though it may be at times.
When I think of how God has faithfully loved me despite my disobedience, how he gently yet often firmly makes clear my shortcomings, how he teaches me over and over from his Word, I rejoice. And I prepare my heart for another day of loving my children and faithfully teaching them those same truths that I taught them yesterday, last month, and last year.
“Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart” (Prov 3:3).
I hung the map anyway, dried bubbly and with “x’s” in the middle of the Atlantic. And now, when I see it, I am reminded that I am walking alongside my children in their journey to godliness for the long haul, just as God is faithfully walking with me.
originally published on August 10, 2017